It is a natural part of human nature to attempt to avoid places of danger and risk. This is especially true in today’s risk-averse world which encourages us to be ‘safe’, to take no risks, to avoid danger whenever and however we can. The problem with this is that a ‘safe’ life is a small one. A life in which all risk is eliminated would be impoverished and constricted.
There are, of course, times in our lives when safety is vital. We crave it for our children since they are not yet able to withstand the pressures and buffeting of life (though some might say that today we protect them too much). There are also other times—times of desolation and sorrow, times of depression or stress, times when we are physically ill or simply below par—when it is important to seek refuge and comfort until we are strong again. There are times of life, which for some people drag on year after bleak year, when we are already in a wilderness, a wilderness not of our choosing, which saps our strength, closes down our world, and brings the sharp pain of grief. These are not times to venture out into the wild spaces; these are times of waiting for healing and hope.
When we are well and strong, however, we can risk much more. At times like these, it is worth reminding ourselves of the quote by John A. Shedd in his collection Salt from My Attic: ‘a ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for’. This simple adage is rich with meaning. Our vocation as followers of Jesus is to live up to God’s calling in our lives. Such a calling, as we will see again in the second half of this book, requires us to be prepared to lay down our lives, to take up our cross, and follow the one whose own path took him to suffering and death. We could stay safe in the harbour or we could unfurl our sails and sail out into the wideness of the sea, living up to our calling to be true followers of Christ whatever the risk or cost. Of course we should not take unnecessary and foolhardy risks but, like ships, human beings are intended to live in wide spaces—in our version of the open sea—where danger and salvation abide side by side.
-Paula Gooder, Let Me Go There: The Spirit of Lent